MCC Photo/Elizabeth Vincent

A prayer vigil outside of the White House was held for Pastor Max Villatoro of Iowa City, Iowa, on March 20.

Advocacy events for deported pastor

Several events were held March 20-21 in Washington, D.C., on the one-year anniversary of the deportation of Mennonite pastor Max Villatoro. Events included a prayer vigil in front of the White House, two congressional briefings, meetings with congressional offices, and a meeting with officials from the Department of Homeland Security.

A delegation from Iowa included Gloria Villatoro, wife of Pastor Max and pastor at Iglesia Torre Fuerte in Iowa City; David Boshart, Executive Conference Minister for Central Plains Mennonite Conference; and attorney David Leopold. Participants were able to lift up the Villatoros’ specific story and connect it to wider issues around U.S. immigration policy.

Petition | Briefing video

Media: Think Progress | Sojourners (Ervin Stutzman) | Iowa City Press-Citizen: March 18, March 22 | Friends of Pastor Max press release

High school essay contest winner announced

On March 24, our office awarded the grand prize in our annual high school essay contest to Olivia Dalke of Dallas, Oregon and Salem Mennonite Church for her essay on climate change. She will receive a prize of $1,000 and meet locally with her elected officials, accompanied by MCC staff.

National honorable mention prizes of $500 each were awarded to Nick Schrock, a senior at Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Ind.; Andre Eanes, a senior at Eastern Mennonite High School, Harrisonburg, Va.; and Ryan Haggerty, a senior at Freeman (S.D.) Academy.

Policy updates

Drones: On March 4, the Obama administration announced that it would release the Presidential Policy Guidance on targeted killings by drones sometime in the near future. This would give the public access to the reasoning behind one of the deadliest programs of the federal government, which has had little to no transparency over the past decade.

Funding for refugees: Congress is in the midst of deciding how much money various accounts will receive. It is vital that refugee-related programs receive full funding, as more people are displaced from their homes than at any time since World War II. More than 100 members of the House and 19 senators signed letters in support of robust funding levels.

Palestine and Israel: Senator Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Johnson (D-Ga.) and nine other members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry, asking for an investigation of human rights violations by the Israeli military, which receives more than $3 billion in aid from the U.S. each year. The letter’s release came shortly after a controversial shooting of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier.

Upcoming events

April 15-18 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be held here in Washington. There will be a gathering for Anabaptists at the conference on Saturday evening. In addition, Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach will conduct a workshop on "Taking advocacy to the next level" and Tammy Alexander will moderate a workshop on "Border and trade justice in the Americas."

May 22-23 The annual Days of Prayer and Action for Peace in Colombia will be here soon! Mark your calendar for May 22 and 23 and make sure your congregation has signed up to receive the worship and advocacy toolkit for your congregation.

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Staff updates

Charles Kwuelum recently returned from an MCC advocacy and learning tour in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. He met with MCC area directors, country representatives, staff and local partners. Charles is available to share information about his work regarding these countries. Invite Charles to speak to your congregation.

Joshua Russell visited Goshen College from March 18-20, where he addressed a peace and conflict studies class and led a workshop at the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship. He also spoke in a Sunday School class at College Mennonite Church and addressed the Peace and Justice Advocates of Elkhart at Hively Avenue Mennonite Church.